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One of Harriman’s most vocal and memorable former leaders in recent years lost her lengthy battle with cancer on Thursday evening.
Sandra Stout, 62, a Harriman City Council member for years, served on various boards and often took a tough look at community issues and was particularly opinionated on the Harriman Utility Board’s rates, often butting heads with other former officials.
“She was a leader,” her sister, Kay Christopher, said Friday. “She just wanted to take charge. Anybody that knew her knew that. Sometimes they liked it; sometimes they didn’t.”
Christopher believes the community will miss the energy and volunteering that Stout gave so willingly to the town she loved.
Her biggest love may have been the Salvation Army, with which she assisted in coordinating volunteers in Harriman.
Stout’s father, World War II veteran Frank Lemons, told stories about the Salvation Army giving him coffee and doughnuts after a cold train ride.
“He said it was the best thing they had,” Christopher said. “He always told that story, and that is why Sandra got into it.”
Stout was consistently outspoken about how she felt, particularly on the city’s fiscal issues.
She remained loyal to the issues she felt strongly about, sharing her opinion in her monthly publication The Roane Reader, which she and Christopher operated for almost 18 years.
Founding and publishing The Roane Reader is among of Christopher’s fondest memories of her sister.
“Three days a month, we were over here working on the paper,” she said. “We enjoyed it.”
Their final publication in May was a hard one. Even though she struggled, Stout was determined to finish it.
“She said, ‘we have got to, we have all these advertisers. We have to do this last one,” Christopher remembered.
The sisters’ love of newspapers started in childhood. Christopher remembers they often played newspaper with a brother.
“He was the editor because he was the boy, and me and Sandra were reporters,” Christopher said.
Over the years, Stout supported any issue she felt strongly about, including decision to let voters decide in a referendum the future of Harriman City Schools.
That issue, a passionate one for Harriman residents for more than a century, led to the city schools becoming part of the Roane County school system.
“She said, ‘I’m not for it or against it, but I think they should be able to vote on it,’” Christopher said.
Another source of pride for Stout was her contribution to efforts to get the development at Pinnacle Pointe located in the community, Christopher said.
Harriman Mayor Chris Mason got to know Stout while both were City Council members. Their shared work included the popular summer Cruisin’ in Harriman.
“Sandra was a strong willed, selfless lady that cared deeply for Harriman and Roane County,” Mason said Friday. “Harriman lost a great supporter. She will be missed.”
The mayor said Stout was very knowledgeable about city government.
“She held everyone to be accountable in terms of making sure we abided by the city charter,” he added. “She knew our charter better than anyone I have ever met. She was very thorough.”
An avid racing enthusiast, Stout was active in the Cruisin’ festivities that take place each summer in downtown Harriman.
Mason said she was involved with Cruisin’ from the beginning. Her duties included being responsible for popcorn and T-shirt sales. He believes she was even president one year.
Many in the community respected Stout for her commitment to the community and outspokenness.
“Sandra was a dedicated community servant to the city of Harriman for many years,” Roane County Commissioner Randy Ellis said. “She will be greatly missed around town. My prayers are with her family.”
Donice Butler, a Harriman attorney who has spearheaded an effort for Harriman Utility Board customers to address their utility rates, credited Stout for her help and for her past work that included gathering information and questioning the utility’s practices.
“She’s worked for years investigating the utility board’s practices and challenging the utility board’s practices as a citizen and as a council member,” Butler said during discussions on the utility this spring.
Butler, who got to know Stout well, said she was more than just an advocate for the community.
“Most people think of Sandra Stout as a brave, tough, determined champion of the community — and she definitely was,” Butler said Friday. “But she was also a loving, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, aunt and friend.
“She will always be in the hearts of all who knew her,” she added. “I was humbled and honored to know her, and my thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Christopher said her sister was devoted to her family, including her three sons and her grandchildren, including the youngest granddaughter, whom Stout feared wouldn’t remember her.
Christopher thinks that and the impending marriages of two of Stout’s sons helped the strong-willed Stout beat the odds as long as she did.
“I think that is what she was striving for,” Christopher said.
The fun-loving Stout did more than think of government issues.
Christopher said her racing-fan sister drove race cars years ago, including at Roane County’s former Atomic Raceway.
“I think she even won once,” Christopher said. “This girl has done everything.”
A talented artist, Stout garnered attention and fanfare among Harriman residents with her painting of what was known as “the old bridge.”
Replaced in the 1990s with the Lon Mee Bridge, the old structure held a special place in the hearts of many in Harriman.
In addition to her public service in Harriman, Stout had a career as a bus driver with the Roane County school system for around 30 years.
She also enjoyed trips with friends.
“She loved spending time with all her friends on her trips,” Christopher said.
Funeral service was at 7 p.m. Sunday in Kyker Funeral Home, Harriman. Burial is at 10 a.m. today, Monday, at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Harriman.
Christopher said the family is encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army in lieu of flowers.